Ace crouched beside his brother, not caring for once what the rest of the room’s occupants thought of him. Right now, he couldn’t be their Ace. Right now Blake needed him to be Whit Savage, to be his brother. And Blake was more important than anything else.
“It’s alright, you’re alright,” he whispered as his brother shook against his grasp. Ace held on tightly, less afraid of hurting his brother than afraid that, if he let go, his brother would hurt himself. Already he could see a little blood trickling from Blake’s mouth, probably from biting his tongue when he fell.
“What’s wrong with him?” Tera asked, her voice gentle. Ace didn’t look up, didn’t answer. Already Blake’s shaking was fading a little, his spasms growing weaker.
“Batten disease,” Deuce replied for him, speaking up from his place beside the door. Ace knew that his friend would die before letting anyone else in, before letting them see both himself and his brother like this. “He’s been like this since birth. It’s genetic, rare, and incurable. Even Doc can’t help him anymore.”
They both fell silent for a moment. Ace tightened his grip, hugging Blake to his chest as the boy finally stopped twitching and lost consciousness. He’d wake soon enough, act like nothing was wrong, probably go try to help Zack. But for now Ace just held his brother, wondering how many times he’d have this chance before Blake was gone forever.
Finally Deuce crouched beside him, lifting Blake into his arms and laying him on the couch. “Go, Ace. You have something you need to do. We’ll stay here with him until he wakes.” Deuce looked into his eyes, the one full of surety, the other fear. “I won’t let anything happen to your brother, I swear it.”
Ace nodded and left before he could change his mind. It was strange that Deuce had let Tera stay, that even now she was sitting with Blake. Ace thought she might be his brother’s friend, that perhaps they were growing closer than he’d thought, than he’d hoped. It was a nice thought, imagining his brother with a girl. Even if she was rather young, plain, and somewhat stupid.
They all thought he was too weak to be Ace. He knew that. But Whit Savage was Ace not only because of blood, but because he could do what he had to. It only proved that he was strong that he could walk down the hallway now, that he could leave his brother behind when all he wanted was to stay there, to watch Blake sleep and pray to whatever devil would listen to him. For God surely would not.
No, Ace was strong enough to do his duty, to follow in his father’s footsteps. He did not have to be cruel, like his father had been. He had his mother for that, always advising him to kill, to take the final, bloody step and bathe his hands in sin and death.
“Neuf, what exactly happened? How much do they know?”
The man could barely be seen in the darkness of the room, but Ace knew he was there by the heavy breathing and squeak of the rolling chair.
“They were waiting for him. Seems like they knew that was where he was going, though I have no idea how. Apparently an anonymous tip came in this afternoon.” Damn, Ace thought, that goddamned traitor is making this very difficult. “And so far they don’t know much. He managed to lose his card before they caught him, swallowed it I guess, but he couldn’t do anything about the tattoo. Only so long before they find it.
“But that alone doesn’t prove guilt,” the fat man mused, and Ace could hear the distinctive sound of his fingernail tapping against his front teeth. Neuf always did it, a nervous tick of some kind. It really irked him. “And he’s got no birth record, no DNA in the system, no fingerprints or facial recognition either. So really, they don’t have much. And there’s almost no possible way to trace him back to us, even if they do prove he’s guilty of more than breaking-and-entering.”
“Where are they holding him? I want the full blueprints. Include security measures, camera blind-spots, access points, everything.”
Ace could have laughed when Neuf drew in a breath and swore. Good to know he could still surprise some people. “You don’t actually mean to try to break him out, do you?” A small lamp clicked on and Ace could see the man’s double chin wiggle as he shook his head. “Listen, you’ve got guts, I’ll give that to you. Your father could have never even imagined trying something like this, but that doesn’t make it a good idea! Forget it! You’ll just get anyone you send to try caught too.”
“I don’t care.” Ace wasn’t surprised to find that he really didn’t. There was no contest. If he was forced to choose between the other members of the family and his brother’s best friend. Zack would win every time. Because Blake needed him, and that was enough for Ace. “We’re getting him out. Tomorrow night.”
As he closed the door behind him, Ace could swear he heard Neuf chuckle.